The Crow (1994)
The Crow (1994)

Genre: Action and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: May 13th, 1994 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Alex Proyas Actors: Brandon Lee, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Sofia Shinas, Anna Thomson, Tony Todd

 


 

L

egend has it that a crow carries deceased men’s souls to the realm of the dead. But if something so terrible happens that the soul can’t rest, the crow will bring it back to the land of the living to make things right. Just such a thing occurs when Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are brutally attacked one Halloween night by a gang of murderous arsonists. Hours before their wedding, Shelly is beaten, raped, and left for dead, while Eric is stabbed, shot, and thrown out of a window (an iconic portal that comes to signify his watchful eye over the city, criminal activity, and loved ones, and the vision of his guardian crow). One year later, Eric rises from the grave, dons black and white makeup to mimic a tragedy theatre mask (“a mime from hell” and the same getup he wore as the front man for his rock band “Hangman’s Joke”), and goes on the prowl to avenge his murder. “They’re all dead. They just don’t know it yet.”

Little Sarah (Rochelle Davis) shakily narrates – she’s a youngster with a drug-addled, prostitute mother (Anna Thomson) and street smarts, forced to look out for herself but aided by a kind police officer, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson). Both characters are regularly involved in the plot, but are unable to contend with or impact the powerful, corrupt network of gangsters behind all the cinematic crime in the city. Like any good revenge story, Eric starts at the bottom of the malefactor food chain and works his way up, taking out each hoodlum with violent, amplified panache. The villains he goes after are just as over-the-top as the painted antihero, each one progressively more psychotic, animated, overacted, and contemptible.

They also have memorable nicknames to designate them as less-than-human henchmen. Tin-Tin (from whom he steals a thick black trench coat) is the first target, followed by Funboy (Michael Massee), T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), and several more. Eventually, Eric will have to confront the towering Tony Todd as Grange, and the long-haired, sword-wielding leader Top Dollar (Michael Wincott, who lands some hilariously macho lines of dialogue), who keeps his deranged Asian sister/lover (Bai Ling) always at his side (an expressionless woman who utters absolute nonsense with the utmost seriousness and has a penchant for carving out the eyeballs of her victims). Everyone is substantially insane, heavily armed, and doused with bizarre idiosyncrasies – but, fortunately, Draven is complementarily blessed with invincibility.

Everything seems to take place at night, which keeps the morbid imagery bathed in blackness. The editing is particularly effective, producing flashbacks with rapid cuts and intense flashes of light to depict the original attack, along with seizure-inducing strobe effects, rain, and smoke during several of the action sequences. The costumes, makeup, and set decorations all possess a strongly gothic vibe, in the same vein as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Batman” (1989), while predating “The Matrix,” “Sin City,” and “The Dark Knight.” The Crow’s look is one of the most memorable of movie characters from the ‘90s.

The hero gets to do all the shamelessly violent, excessively badass vigilantism, which makes the film a first-rate revenge fantasy and a thrilling adaptation of the comic book series on which it’s based. However, so much of the production is spent trying to concoct visually impressive action and style that the substance of the plot and character development are noticeably lacking. Though some of the dialogue is silly at best and the pacing marginally too brooding, Draven’s lines are regularly quotable and the acting all around is above average for these considerably kooky roles. To accompany the design is a very present soundtrack, enriched with female operatic voices, orchestral music by Graeme Revell, plenty of rock ‘n’ roll (Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine), and even an original song by The Cure. And for good measure, “The Crow” also contains an abundance of typical R-rated fare: explosions, acrobatic stunts, a “Scarface”-like mound of cocaine, nudity, knives and needles, hand cannons, bloody violence, slow-motion, alleyway brawls, automatic weapons, swordfights, and characters coolly wearing sunglasses at night.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10